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Appalachian Trail: Wilder Mine Hollow to Watauga Lake

A picturesque AT segment highlighting a series of waterfalls.

Hiking Difficult

47 km
2.3 km
2.6 km
1 day +
Low Point
591 m
High Point
1.3 km
Appalachian Trail: Wilder Mine Hollow to Watauga Lake Map

This stretch of the Appalachian Trail is typically traversed over 2-3 days, though an experienced runner or hiker could complete it in one day.


Parking at US19E is limited, but a few gravel pull-offs allow for a shuttle opportunity for those looking for those looking to thru-hike the section. On the other end, is plenty of parking at the northern Terminus of Watauga Lake. Forums suggest parking at the boat ramp, as local law enforcement patrol it regularly.

While most choose to tackle this segment northbound, others suggest that the series of switchbacks are more easily traversed southbound.

Beginning at US19E, you will pass by intermittent apple trees, similar to those encountered around the Roan Highlands. Before skirting along the edge of the Elk River, you'll pass a short side trail to the beautiful 100-foot-tall Jones Falls.

Soon after that, you'll approach Mountaineer Falls and the adjacent shelter that serves as a great overnight camping opportunity. Three sleeping platforms are located in the area, and water can be found nearby. Along Laurel Fork, you'll also encounter several primitive campsites.

After a relaxing stretch of trail leading west away from the state line, you'll find yourself along the high point of White Rock Mountain. A shelter is also located in this area. The summit rewards you with panoramic views on the site of an old fire tower that no longer exists.

Continuing on, you'll reach a trail intersection with a popular blue-blazed trail, formerly part of the AT. This stretch of trail passes by Coon Den Falls and leads back to Dennis Cove Road, making it a popular day hike for those who want to visit the popular 50-foot-tall waterfall. An out-and-back would be the best way to visit the falls for a thru-hiker.

Both the AT and Laurel Falls Trail lead to Dennis Cove Road, but they reach the road nearly a mile apart from each other.

After crossing the road on the white-blazed AT, Laurel Falls (sometimes referred to as Laurel Fork Falls) lies ahead. This 40-foot-high, 50-foot-wide waterfall is a popular spot as it is less than three miles from Dennis Cove Road.

Heading north through Laurel Fork George, a series of switchbacks lies between you and the northern terminus of Watauga Lake.

Note that this is an active region for bears, so bring the appropriate gear to store food if you plan to camp overnight.

Sources: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/cherokee/recarea/?recid=35016 http://tehcc.org/wiki/US19EtoDennisCoveRd https://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/archive/index.php/t-99778.html http://appalachiantreks.blogspot.com/2007/03/jones-falls.html



Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.


2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

all year round


  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Summit Hike
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Guidebooks in this area